Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Media and the Backlash

Matt at the Suffolk Progressive is frustrated by the way the media has been handling race and Obama. He writes:
When writers say things like (from Politico):

A failure [to address the Wright problem] could leave many of the white independent voters — a key group behind Obama’s swift rise in national politics — doubting whether he is really the bridge-builder and healer he has portrayed himself to be.

...I can't help but feel as if they are helping to make it so. Now, one would argue they have historical bases for their statements, and they do. But the simple fact is that Barack Obama is not every other black guy, and this is not 1988. Media commentators have wondered if he would be "branded" as the Jesse Jackson kind of black politician, and thus far, he hasn't been. But when such moral deference is given to the white backlash voter--essentially, that it's understandable and even defensible if he strays from Obama over his former pastor's comments--it contributes to the racial problem in our politics. This is more than mere analysis. It is a sort of moral "thumbs up" to white voters. It's OK if you get freaked out by the pastor and black guys generally... your fathers did! Why not you?

I think he's pretty clearly right about this. When the media keeps asking "is this a problem for candidate X?" that tends to have the effect of making it a problem. Nothing like this can get off of the ground without extended media chatter.
I also think that "moral deference" is often shown to your average blue-collar voter by somewhat self-loathing or media elite. The idea is that these are the true Americans (what does that make the rest of us, chopped liver?). The fact that the media is so ready to portray these voters as racist shows just how condescending this "moral deference" is.

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